Preserved North American Electric Railway Cars
I. Criteria for Inclusion
There are a number of different factors which help decide whether
or not a particular piece of equipment ought to be included on
The Roster of Preserved
North American Electric Railway Cars.
Many are obvious - a Birney or wooden interurban car operating in a
museum is an easy choice. Others are not so obvious. Is an
interurban freight trailer really an electric car? Is a 1920s
work car still in everyday service with its original owner historic,
or preserved? What about an electric MU commuter car that has been
stripped of most of its electric equipment by a tourist railroad? In
the end, all of the criteria have been applied to come to a conclusion
about each piece under consideration. (Note: the word "car" will be
used to designate electric railway equipment in general, including
locomotives and other miscellaneous types.)
The first question is, "is it an electric car?" If the car was
built to operate by taking power from overhead wire, third rail or conduit, the
answer is "yes." The only preserved dual-power electric/diesel-electrics
thought to exist in North America are FL9As; the decision has been
made not to include them, largely because the FL9 is essentially a
stock diesel fitted with a good deal of special equipment. There are a
number of cars on the list that do not take power from the line,
though. Most are passenger trailers, which undoubtedly belong
alongside motor cars in any list of traction equipment. Many
interurban freight cars, however, carry no traction-specific apparatus
and in some cases are simply mainline freight cars acquired secondhand
by traction lines. A very small number of interurban freight trailers
have been included in the list because of their unique design,
developed by the Central Electric Railway Association. Except for
these, and a handful of other cars designed to operate solely with
electric cars, electric railway freight cars have not been included.
The second question is, "is it preserved?" This question comes into play
notably when considering carbodies in use as sheds or
houses - "chicken coops," to use a common term. These cars have not
been included because they are not preserved, in that they stand a poor
chance of ultimate survival. Even bodies that are owned by museums
are considered to be preserved, because in general museums plan on
eventually restoring all of the cars in their collections. Cars still
in regular service, but judged to be historic (and, by extension,
preserved), are also included. There is no specific cut-off date, but
cars like PCCs and older work cars are included even when they are still
in regular service. Cars specifically designed as historical replicas
had previously been included, but as of 28-November-2004, will no
longer be listed unless they incorporate significant, authentic
The third question is, "is it from North America?" There are a number
of foreign electric cars in use
at American museums and transit operations. Many of these cars are
old enough to be considered historic. However, every one of them has
operated in North America solely in a museum or "heritage line"
function, and not in regular service. Because of this, these cars
have not been included. On the other hand, cars that did operate in
regular service in North America and were later transported
overseas (including several Third Avenue Railway streetcars) have been
There are other considerations. Electric MU commuter cars have been
preserved in large numbers, however most have been shorn of the
majority of their electric equipment and pressed into service as
normal coaches. These cars have been included in the list; they are
regarded as akin to a streetcar missing its control system or motors. On
the other hand, several electric cars that were built as non-electrics
and later rebuilt for electric service have been restored to their
pre-electrified states. These cars have not been included because
they are considered to be preserved as non-electrics. Electric
cars that have been modified to the point of being unrecognizable have
also been removed from the list in some cases. Equipment built for
track gauge narrower than 3' has been excluded, which eliminates mining
and industrial railways.
II. Explanation of Terms and Criteria Used in Specific Categories
- Number and Railway
- The number and railway listed for a car are those it currently wears.
If a car is in an unrestored condition, the number and railway listed are
those that its owner is thought to have plans to restore it to.
Former operators and numbers are listed in the "Ownership History" category.
The number is in fact alpha-numeric and so when sorting by car number,
20 comes before 3, which is somewhat confusing.
- Builder and "Built In" Date
- These are fairly self-apparent. They designate the car's builder and the year it was built (not necessarily the year it was delivered or placed
into service). Rebuilds are generally ignored or placed in the "Notes" category except where a complete rebuild, using only isolated components of the original car, was done. In these cases the date of the rebuild is listed and the original built date is placed in the "Notes" category.
- All cars on the list are sorted into one of about 25 categories, such
as "interurban" or "locomotive" or "work motor." These are broad
designations; more specific information is placed in parentheses, as
are railroad-determined classifications (such as "GG-1") where
applicable. This makes it possible to search for e.g. all surviving combines,
or all Lackawanna rapid transit cars, or all GG-1 locomotives.
- The status of each piece of equipment is noted as belonging in
one of several general categories. Major categories include
"displayed inoperable" (car does not operate, but is on public display);
"displayed operable" (car is apparently in operational condition, but is
on static display); "operated occasionally" (car is operational but is
not used in regular service); "operated often" (car is used
regularly); "stored inoperable" (car is neither in operating condition
nor on public display); "towed inoperable" (car is operated, but unpowered
and hauled by a locomotive); "undergoing restoration" (car is seeing
noticeable rebuilding work); and "situation unknown" (status of car
has not been determined). Some of these categories differ
only slightly; input is appreciated.
- This is pretty self-explanatory - it notes the material used in
the car's basic construction.
- Roof and Ended
- These two categories carry two-letter designators intended to communicate
some descriptive elements of the car's design. The "roof" category lists
the type of roof the car has. AR=arched roof; BO=Bombay roof;
DR=deck roof; RR=railroad roof; ST="Stillwell" style roof;
TU=turtleback roof. The "ended" category designates whether the car
is single ended (SE) or double ended (DE). This determination depends
largely on whether the car has control consoles of approximately
equal capability at either end - a car with only a backup
or hostler controller at the rear is still considered single ended.
- Length, Width, Height and Weight
- Given in feet+inches and in pounds. Some dimensional
measurements may differ, particularly height, which can be measured to
a variety of things including roof, trolley boards, ventilators and
trolley base. Figures listed have been published at one point or
another; input is appreciated. Length is considered to be length
overall, not body length; some inconsistency may exist as to whether
this length is over buffers or over coupler pulling faces.
Weight listed is weight when complete and without load.
- This is the number of seats on the car; standing room is not
- This refers to the car's "Out Of Service" date. In fact, the year
listed is the year in which the car was sold by or otherwise transferred
from its operating company, not the year it was removed from
active service. The year it was removed from active service is listed
in parentheses, but only when it differs from the year the car
was sold (in most cases, these dates are the same). For example,
the Chicago Aurora & Elgin ceased all passenger service in 1957 but
didn't sell its cars until 1962; therefore, the "OOS" listing for
CA&E passenger cars is 1962, with 1957 in parentheses.
- This refers to the track gauge the car was designed to run on.
Changes in gauge are listed in the "Notes" category.
- This category includes a number, designating how many wheels a car
has (always a multiple of two, generally a multiple of four), and a
designator in parentheses. This latter designator is a way of
communicating the number, arrangement and powering of a car's axles.
Unpowered axles are designated with numbers, powered axles with
letters. Axles rigidly mounted, as in a truck [bogie],
are "added" to each other - an unpowered two-axle truck
is designated "2" and a powered two-axle truck is
designated "B". Trucks with a mixture of powered and unpowered
axles, like Brill "Maximum Traction" trucks, are listed as
"A1" or "1A". Dashes [-] and plus signs [+] designate truck
connections. A dash designates trucks or axles connected through the
body (a standard two-truck streetcar is designated "B-B"), and a
plus sign designates trucks connected together directly (a good
example is a GG-1 locomotive, where buffering forces are not
transferred through the body). This seemingly complex system is
often used for diesels, and is something of an extension of the
Whyte steam locomotive classification system adapted for units
with traction motors. The Whyte equivalent of a standard
streetcar (B-B) would be 0-4-4-0; a GG-1
locomotive (2-C+C-2) would be 4-6-6-4. This category
is also used to list whether or not a car is powered; a two-truck
trailer is designated "2-2". There are a
few discrepancies; questions and comments are welcomed.
- Total HP
- This category lists the total rated hourly horsepower
for the car; divide by the number of motors and one arrives at
the rating for that type of motor.
The manufacturer and designation of the trucks. Where different trucks
are used under the same car, both are listed with a / and an explanation
appears in the Notes.
- Motors, Control, Brakes and Compressor
- GE=General Electric, WH=Westinghouse. The number in parentheses after the
motor or compressor designation lists how many the car has.
"Control" lists the type of motor control system used. For simple
"K" platform controllers, the controller model number is listed. All "K"
controllers were, in fact, manufactured as components by General Electric
and then assembled and sold by Westinghouse, et al. under license.
For multiple-unit or power-operated control, the manufacturer (abbreviated)
and control system type are listed, followed by the master
controller model number, if known, in parentheses, e.g. "GE PC-10 (C36)".
"Brake" refers to the braking type or braking schedule. The brake valve
model number, if known, is listed in parentheses.
Square brackets around any type of equipment mean that it is not
currently mounted on the car. Bodies will have the trucks in
parentheses (along with everything else), for instance.
- Where a "Voltage" is listed, it means this car operated on a nominal
supply voltage other than 600 Volts, DC.
- Ownership History
- This category, referred to under "Number and Railway," lists
former owners, numbers and dates of ownership. Often this information
is difficult to come by; input is appreciated.
- This category lists any miscellaneous information that does not fall
into any of the above categories.
Any questions or corrections? Feel free to contact Frank Hicks at